In many ways, next week’s Dutch parliamentary elections are a repeat exercise. The populism of Geert Wilders, frontman of the Party for Freedom (PVV), will once again draw many votes. Some polls predict that the PVV will become the largest party, although Wilders’s chances of participating in government remain negligible.
Many parties, from the liberal People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD) to the Socialist Party (SP), have already announced their intention not to work with the PVV in forming a coalition. VVD leader Mark Rutte has been prime minister since 2010 and has led two cabinets since then. The Dutch will consider the achievements of the past few years when casting their vote.
As ever, issues such as healthcare, education and immigration, as well as the role of the Netherlands in Europe, will be decisive. It’s worth noting that the Dutch voted against the ratification of an association agreement between the European Union and Ukraine in a 2016 referendum, an expression of Dutch hesitation over further EU enlargement.
This year’s elections take place in an international context of increasing populism, especially since the election of Donald Trump. Right-wing politicians in countries around the Netherlands have become more vocal. Twenty-eight Dutch political parties are contesting the elections on March 15, including a number of populist splinter parties. Non-native Dutch communities – mostly second- and third-generation citizens of Turkish and Moroccan descent – are represented, as are groups that came into being following social debates about, for example, the Dutch tradition of Zwarte Piet (a character portrayed in blackface) or the Ukraine referendum. The field is varied, and the traditional major parties can no longer assume an outcome in line with past results.
Last month the Dutch bishops published a letter about the elections called “Together Responsible for the Common Good”. The bishops said that voting was both a right and a duty, and while they refrained from providing advice on specific parties, they offered several thoughts which they considered important for voting responsibly.
The bishops mostly focused on the importance of social cohesion, human dignity and solidarity. They explicitly criticised euthanasia, gender theory and the exclusion of people who have become dependent or in other ways cannot contribute to the economy.
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